Chain E-mails! Part 1! Back when we all had creatively named AOL accounts do you remember that chain e-mail that supposedly originated at the Cambridge University linguistics department, which told you (utilizing the form) that, as long as the first and last letters of a word were the same, the sandwiched letters could be jumbled about to high heaven and a reader could still obtain full comprehension?
This kind of thing- “Aoccdrnig to a rseearchr at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit any porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe”
Well, turns out, it’s total bullplop. Nonsense. Malarky. It’s not just the first and last letters cuing you in to what a word is, but also those little credit-less stubs of language- the conjunctions, pronouns, (short) prepositions. Without “the” “at” “and” “if” “he” “it,” you wouldn’t have a clue what a sentence was trying to say. Still, what captivated people about the chainletter, made it one of those things that probably a third of the US population glossed over at some point in their lives, was that it was language taken right to the brink of incomprehensibility. Zammuto is the same with music.
There’s a lot of music outside of pop music which refuses to throw you a bone. John Cage wrote a 639 year long song. Konono Number 1 are absolutely stunning for the first five minutes you hear them, but the point is, their songs go on for twenty minutes. Scott Walker! Neurosis! Swans! If these guys were that chain e-mail thing, they wouldn’t be mixed up letters, they would be a picture you opened which caused you to immediately have a seizure.
But I think Zammuto’s doing the same kind of thing- registering their official complaint against the status quo, and they do it by taking listeners right to the point where pop music falls apart. But then, unlike the combative stuff I reference above, they don’t let it fall apart. “Yay”, the album’s opening track, has chopped vocals and blasted organs and distorted to garbage drums. It is an act in deconstruction. But it offers listeners enough that they will not be repelled. They will be interested. They will want to listen, again and again. Zammuto changes the letters of his words, but he keeps all his conjunctions.
Zammuto is Nick Zammuto from The Books. The Books broke up and Zammuto formed a band and named that band after himself. The Books never cared about structure. They operated outside of systems, intentionally. They were a quieter version of that Neurosis song up above. Zammuto, in contrast, talk to systems. Zammuto songs say “why do you do this? What’s going through your mind? Don’t you realize that’s a little bit fucked up?” Zammuto is reasonable, amiable, smart. Zammuto offers listeners an alternative. More than that, they offer them directions to get there.
Chain E-mails! Part 2! Back when we all had creatively named AOL accounts, do you remember those chain e-mails where beautiful patterns emerged from scrolling through line after line of dashes, asterixes, at symbols, dollar signs, brackets? It was/is called ascii art, art made entirely out of computer characters, and man did it never get its due. I mean, here you had people taking symbols usually reserved for the longest kinds of tax documents, the densest term papers, the most pretentious poetry and turning them into the kind of things which sixth-grade Gabe thought were pure magic.
Django Django are a young group from England who I discovered when they were nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize. They are a group who take blips and the scraps of digital matter edited out of satellite simulcasts and the exploding sounds from Doom 2 and the collective weight of every furious hand slamming down on every keyboard attached to a computer which has just frozen, and they turn it into pop music. This is an album, end to end, which feels repurposed, refurbished, like the most beautiful anniversary cards ever written on office stationary, or the way, under those fluorescent lights, the sound cards stacked in your Tech Guy’s office circa-1996 almost look like hills seens from a passing train. Django Django take the asterix and make it beautiful.